I think it goes without saying that Natural Born Killers is among the most insane and psychotic experiences I've ever had with a movie. There's no denying that this is one of the most over-the-top movies ever made, and although it's not to everyone's tastes because of the pure insanity and brutality offered by the film, if you can handle it, you'll be rewarded with a surreal experience that's raw and unforgettable. What's even better about the experience is that it's not devoid of meaning, and it's not just controversial and brutal for the sake of being controversial and brutal, but it's actually a very thoughtful satire and social commentary on the publicity of criminals, as well as the media and criminals' lifestyle in general. Natural Born Killers is considered one of the most controversial films of all time, being subject to about twelve different copycat crimes, but honestly, I feel that Natural Born Killers is often dismissed as a repulsive, vile film that corrupts minds for that reason rather than a film that carefully analyzes the process of violent serial killers turning into heroes through the mass media. Oliver Stone clearly achieved what he wanted to here, and this film will certainly shock and unsettle many, but that's precisely the point. Natural Born Killers deserves far more recognition than the controversial reputation that it currently has, and it's certainly one of the most bold satires ever created.
Natural Born Killers follows the violent couple of Mickey and Mallory Knox (Juliette Lewis and Woody Harrelson) as they commit several gory crimes and as a result are irresponsibly publicized and glorified by the media's interest in the killers. The couple are two victims of violent childhoods and therefore share the common interest of violence, as well as the interest and desire of each other, becoming lovers and mass murderers. A particular officer named Jack Scagnetti (Tom Sizemore) is willing to do anything he can in order to capture and put down these mass murderers, and a news reporter named Wayne Gale (Robert Downey Jr.) follows the couple and publicizes their actions on TV. Later in the film, we're also introduced to a prison warden named Dwight McClusky (Tommy Lee Jones). The film opens up with one of most shocking opening scenes I've ever seen to date, where Mickey and Mallory Knox stop at a roadside diner, where Mallory is briefly sexually harassed and the couple then proceeds to kill everyone there except one. If you're not a fan of the opening scene, then you're probably not going to enjoy the rest of the film either, because Natural Born Killers mostly revolves around those kind of actions with buckets of blood and brutality. There's plenty of visceral editing to accompany gory, gut-wrenching murders that often changes from the weirdest angles to black and white shots, and sometimes even brief animation.
Quentin Tarantino originally had involvement with the script for the movie, and although I love him as both a director and a writer, I feel like his writing wouldn't of fit for this kind of movie. He often uses natural, everyday dialogue yet uses it in an odd way to make it engaging, but I've read some of his original script and I compared it to the current one, and I must admit that the current one is far more effective. His script was heavily edited by Oliver Stone and a few others, and for that reason, Tarantino often chooses not to talk about his involvement with the movie. His script was more funny than terrifying, and since this movie is designed to shock, unsettle, and prove a point about society, I feel like it wasn't fit for this kind of movie. Even then, I could still notice his involvement in some form throughout the movie, mostly the overall style, especially when it came to the storytelling and the style of filming. Stone's finished product is a more hallucinogenic ride through insanity than an ultra-violent but funny ride through insanity, though it would be interesting to see how Tarantino would've taken the project into his hands. The current experience, as I said, has very odd editing and some of the weirdest storytelling I've ever really seen, often switching from flashbacks of 1970s sitcoms, slow-motion sequences, and different contrasts of color.
This is the sort of film that takes courage to really finish, and I must admit that although it was a hard film to sit through, it was definitely a rewarding ride. I watched the Director's Cut, which is Oliver Stone's intended version of the film, with about four total minutes of extended bloodbaths, gory sequences, and dialogue. I don't know the overall differences of the R-rated version and the NC-17 rated version, but either way, it's still a very hard film to get through. Despite being filled to the brim with nasty sequences whether its sexual or physical violence, none of it is really gratuitous, although some may get a headache by the constant switch of storytelling techniques throughout the film. I must point out that I'm not a fan of excessive, repulsive violence by any means, especially when it's gratuitous, but here, I couldn't help but realize and think about Oliver Stone's true intentions with the film. It's actually thought-provoking material, pondering the media's process of glorifying violent killers. For the first half of the movie, Stone seems to be focusing on the killers' causes for the violence rather than the actual violence, but for the second half, Stone seems to be focusing on people like Wayne Gale's intentions to exploit these killers purely for money and fame, and Wayne only finds interest and entertainment out of the couple. All he cares about is making a profit off of them. Jack Scagnetti is a prime example of society's employment of immoral, vile people to defend and protect us, and we have certain people in power in society that shouldn't be in power at all. At one point, Dwight McClusky calls the couple everything wrong with society, but then later proceeds to discuss how brutally he's going to kill them. Both Jack and Dwight represent anything but legitimate law enforcement in our nation.
If there's one thing that you can't leave out of a Natural Born Killers review, it's the absolutely insane performances. What's crazy to think about is the fact that are literally five scene-stealing performances in this film, whether it's Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Robert Downey Jr., and Tommy Lee Jones. Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis as Mickey and Mallory Knox have same bizarrely great, very weird chemistry here, and even some oddly touching moments as well through their relationship. I must say that Woody steals the show over Juliette as a calm but often darkly humorous serial killer, but that's not to say Juliette isn't far behind, with her utterly wild and surreal performance. Tom Sizemore manages to be the most vile and irredeemable out of the five, and he's also the most terrifying out of the group, being a sadistic misogynist that's a murderer in his own right. Tommy Lee Jones as the warden is a foulmouthed, unappealing hypocrite that often steals the show, especially with his frustrated fits. Robert Downey Jr., however, is the real star of the show here. I have no idea what kind of drug he was on, but seriously, not only he was on some sort of drug, but the filmmakers and the editors were on them too, and maybe even the audience. Robert Downey Jr. is one of the biggest narcissistic, yet bizarrely entertaining, degenerates I've seen on screen, and he also has a weird, excellent Australian accent to go along with his obnoxious attitude. It's odd to think he transitioned from an utterly insane role like this to a more cooler, laid back role like Tony Stark in the Iron Man movies. I can't stress how phenomenal the acting is here, and it's certainly the best part of this movie. If there was one thing I didn't like about the film was the fact that at times, the psychotic nature of the film did go overboard and it sort of lost its meaning, but only for brief periods. However, if that over-the-top violence that went overboard did get removed, the film may or may not quite have the same impact, so I'm not so sure if that can be considered a legitimate complaint or not.
Natural Born Killers is often dismissed as yet another controversial film that's pointlessly and gratuitously violent, and it's fine if the style or amount of violence isn't to your taste, but to those dismissing this film as mindless and pointless should rethink over that. This film has a bold statement to say about our society and it definitely says it with an exaggerated, psychotic, and surreal style, and I can't say that it's a perfect masterpiece because at times I honestly felt like the violence went overboard (maybe that's only for the Director's Cut), but it was too brilliant of an experience to give it any less praise. This must've also been one of the most difficult films to ever make, because there literally isn't more than fifteen seconds where some weird editing style, whether its a black and white frame or some very odd angle, kicks in, even in (somewhat) normal conversations. I'm going to have to re-watch this film at one point or another and having already experienced the film, the next time I watch it, I know what's to come and I can evaluate the actual meaning of the film better. As I said, not everyone will get the same experience that I had, as I've heard many complaining that it gave them a headache and it was literally impossible to watch, and I can understand that. As for me, however, Natural Born Killers clicked in every great way possible for me. Natural Born Killers is one of the most utterly insane experiences that I've ever had, and surprisingly, there's an incredible meaning behind all that insanity, and I won't be forgetting this experience any time soon.